OPEN Foundation

P. Barbosa

Ayahuasca blocks the reinstatement of methylphenidate-induced conditioned place preference in mice: behavioral and brain Fos expression evaluations

Abstract

Rationale: Accumulating evidence suggests that ayahuasca, a hallucinogenic beverage used in traditional Amazonian communities for ritualistic and curative purposes, has been associated with reduced rates of substance use disorders. However, the brain mechanisms underlying the therapeutic effects of ayahuasca have not yet been fully elucidated.

Objectives: The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of treatment with ayahuasca on the rewarding properties of the psychostimulant methylphenidate.

Methods: The rewarding properties of ayahuasca (100 mg/kg, orally) and methylphenidate (10 mg/kg, i.p.) were investigated using the conditioned place preference (CPP) model. Furthermore, we evaluated the effects of repeated treatment with ayahuasca on the reinstatement of methylphenidate-induced CPP. Fos expression was evaluated in different limbic structures (cingulate cortex-area 1, prelimbic cortex, infralimbic cortex, orbitofrontal cortex-lateral orbital area, nucleus accumbens core and shell, ventral tegmental area, dorsal striatum, and basolateral amygdala) upon each experimental phase.

Results: Both ayahuasca and methylphenidate induced CPP in mice. However, ayahuasca had limited effects on Fos expression, while methylphenidate altered Fos expression in several brain regions associated with the behavioral effects of drugs of abuse. Treatment with ayahuasca after conditioning with methylphenidate blocked the reinstatement of methylphenidate-induced CPP. Those behavioral effects were accompanied by changes in Fos expression patterns, with ayahuasca generally blocking the changes in Fos expression induced by conditioning with methylphenidate and/or reexposure to methylphenidate.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that ayahuasca restored normal brain function in areas associated with the long-term expression of drug wanting/seeking in animals conditioned to methylphenidate.

Reis, H. S., Rodrigues, I., Anjos-Santos, A., Libarino-Santos, M., Serra, Y. A., Cata-Preta, E. G., Oliveira-Campos, D., Kisaki, N. D., Barros-Santos, T., Yokoyama, T. S., Cruz, F. C., Oliveira-Lima, A. J., Barbosa, P., Berro, L. F., & Marinho, E. (2020). Ayahuasca blocks the reinstatement of methylphenidate-induced conditioned place preference in mice: behavioral and brain Fos expression evaluations. Psychopharmacology, 237(11), 3269–3281. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-020-05609-6

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Psychological and neuropsychological assessment of regular hoasca users

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Hoasca (also called ayahuasca) is a N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) – containing psychedelic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the Amazon Basin. Recently, Brazilian syncretic churches have helped spread the ritual use of hoasca to Western societies. The aim of this study was to evaluate substance use, and neuropsychological and psychological functioning of regular hoasca users within a religious setting.

METHODS: Assessment of socio-economic status, mood, personality traits, impulsiveness, drug use, quality of life, extrinsic and intrinsic religiosity, and neuropsychological function was performed on 30 volunteers from a U.S. branch of União do Vegetal (UDV), a Brazilian religion which uses hoasca ritually. We also assessed 27 non-hoasca-using control subjects matched by socio-demographic profile and church attendance. Mann-Whitney U, chi-squared and Fisher tests were used to analyze differences between groups. Spearman’s association and simple logistic regression tests were used to analyze the impact of frequency of hoasca use on dependent variables.

RESULTS: Relative to the control group, the UDV group demonstrated lower scores for depression (p=0.043, r=.27) and confusion (p=0.032, r=.29) as assessed by the Profile of Mood States (POMS); higher scores on the instrument Big Five Inventory (BFI) for the personality traits agreeableness (p=0.028, r=.29) and openness (p=0.037, r=.28); higher scores on the quality life domain role limitations due to physical health as determined by the instrument Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 – SF-36 (p=0.035, r=.28); less recent use of alcohol (p<0.001, φc=.57), greater past use of alcohol to intoxication (p=0.007, φc=.36) and past use of cannabis (p=0.001, φc=.45) as measured by the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), 5th edition; better score on a measure of memory vulnerability to proactive interference as measured by the California Verbal Learning Test – CVLT (p=0.040, r=.27). Lifetime use of hoasca was positively correlated with role limitations due to physical health (p=0.032, rs=.39) and negatively associated with lifetime heavy alcohol use (p=0.034, OR=0.979).

CONCLUSIONS: The findings indicate that religious use of hoasca does not adversely affect neuropsychological functioning and may have positive effects on substance abuse and mood.

Barbosa, P. C. R., Strassman, R. J., da Silveira, D. X., Areco, K., Hoy, R., Pommy, J., … & Bogenschutz, M. (2016). Psychological and neuropsychological assessment of regular hoasca users. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 71, 95-105. 0.1016/j.comppsych.2016.09.003

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Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: A proof-of-concept study

Abstract

Several lines of evidence suggest that classic (5HT2A agonist) hallucinogens have clinically relevant effects in alcohol and drug addiction. Although recent studies have investigated the effects of psilocybin in various populations, there have been no studies on the efficacy of psilocybin for alcohol dependence. We conducted a single-group proof-of-concept study to quantify acute effects of psilocybin in alcohol-dependent participants and to provide preliminary outcome and safety data. Ten volunteers with DSM-IV alcohol dependence received orally administered psilocybin in one or two supervised sessions in addition to Motivational Enhancement Therapy and therapy sessions devoted to preparation for and debriefing from the psilocybin sessions. Participants’ responses to psilocybin were qualitatively similar to those described in other populations. Abstinence did not increase significantly in the first 4 weeks of treatment (when participants had not yet received psilocybin), but increased significantly following psilocybin administration (p < 0.05). Gains were largely maintained at follow-up to 36 weeks. The intensity of effects in the first psilocybin session (at week 4) strongly predicted change in drinking during weeks 5–8 (r = 0.76 to r = 0.89) and also predicted decreases in craving and increases in abstinence self-efficacy during week 5. There were no significant treatment-related adverse events. These preliminary findings provide a strong rationale for controlled trials with larger samples to investigate efficacy and mechanisms.

Bogenschutz, M. P., Forcehimes, A. A, Pommy, J. A., Wilcox, C. E., Barbosa, P. C. R., & Strassman, R. J. (2015). Psilocybin-assisted treatment for alcohol dependence: A proof-of-concept study. Journal of Psychopharmacology. https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0269881114565144

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Personality, Psychopathology, Life Attitudes and Neuropsychological Performance among Ritual Users of Ayahuasca: A Longitudinal Study

Abstract

Ayahuasca is an Amazonian psychoactive plant beverage containing the serotonergic 5-HT2A agonist N,N-dimethyltryptamine (DMT) and monoamine oxidase-inhibiting alkaloids (harmine, harmaline and tetrahydroharmine) that render it orally active. Ayahuasca ingestion is a central feature in several Brazilian syncretic churches that have expanded their activities to urban Brazil, Europe and North America. Members of these groups typically ingest ayahuasca at least twice per month. Prior research has shown that acute ayahuasca increases blood flow in prefrontal and temporal brain regions and that it elicits intense modifications in thought processes, perception and emotion. However, regular ayahuasca use does not seem to induce the pattern of addiction-related problems that characterize drugs of abuse. To study the impact of repeated ayahuasca use on general psychological well-being, mental health and cognition, here we assessed personality, psychopathology, life attitudes and neuropsychological performance in regular ayahuasca users (n = 127) and controls (n = 115) at baseline and 1 year later. Controls were actively participating in non-ayahuasca religions. Users showed higher Reward Dependence and Self-Transcendence and lower Harm Avoidance and Self-Directedness. They scored significantly lower on all psychopathology measures, showed better performance on the Stroop test, the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test and the Letter-Number Sequencing task from the WAIS-III, and better scores on the Frontal Systems Behavior Scale. Analysis of life attitudes showed higher scores on the Spiritual Orientation Inventory, the Purpose in Life Test and the Psychosocial Well-Being test. Despite the lower number of participants available at follow-up, overall differences with controls were maintained one year later. In conclusion, we found no evidence of psychological maladjustment, mental health deterioration or cognitive impairment in the ayahuasca-using group.

Bouso, J. C, González, D., Fondevila, S., Cutchet, M., Fernández, X., Barbosa, P. C. R., … Riba, J. (2012). Personality, Psychopathology, Life Attitudes and Neuropsychological Performance among Ritual Users of Ayahuasca: A Longitudinal Study. PLoS ONE 7(8), 1-13.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0042421
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Health status of ayahuasca users.

Abstract

Ayahuasca is a psychedelic brew originally used for magico-religious purposes by Amerindian populations of the western Amazon Basin. Throughout the last four decades, the use of ayahuasca spread towards major cities in all regions of Brazil and abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine- and harmala-alkaloid-containing tea may lead to mental and physical health problems associated typically with drug abuse. To further elucidate the mental and physical health of ayahuasca users, we conducted a literature search in the international medical PubMed database. Inclusion criteria were evaluation of any related effect of ayahuasca use that occurred after the resolution of acute effects of the brew. Fifteen publications were related to emotional, cognitive, and physical health of ayahuasca users. The accumulated data suggest that ayahuasca use is safe and may even be, under certain conditions, beneficial. However, methodological bias of the reviewed studies might have contributed to the preponderance of beneficial effects and to the few adverse effects reported. The data up to now do not appear to allow for definitive conclusions to be drawn on the effects of ayahuasca use on mental and physical health, but some studies point in the direction of beneficial effects. Additional studies are suggested to provide further clarification.

Barbosa, P. C. R., Mizumoto, S., Bogenschutz, M. P., & Strassman, R. J. (2012). Health status of ayahuasca users. Drug testing and analysis, 4(7-8), 601-609. https://dx.doi.org/10.1002/dta.1383
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Assessment of addiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca

Abstract

Ayahuasca is a psychoactive beverage used for magico-religious purposes in the Amazon. Recently, Brazilian syncretic churches have helped spread the ritual use of ayahuasca abroad. This trend has raised concerns that regular use of this N,N-dimethyltryptamine-containing tea may lead to the medical and psychosocial problems typically associated with drugs of abuse. Here we assess potential drug abuse-related problems in regular ayahuasca users. Addiction severity was assessed using the Addiction Severity Index (ASI), and history of alcohol and illicit drug use was recorded. In Study 1, jungle-based ayahuasca users (n=56) were compared vs. rural controls (n=56). In Study 2, urban-based ayahuasca users (n=71) were compared vs. urban controls (n=59). Follow-up studies were conducted 1 year later. In both studies, ayahuasca users showed significantly lower scores than controls on the ASI Alcohol Use, and Psychiatric Status subscales. The jungle-based ayahuasca users showed a significantly higher frequency of previous illicit drug use but this had ceased at the time of examination, except for cannabis. At follow-up, abstinence from illicit drug use was maintained in both groups except for cannabis in Study 1. However, differences on ASI scores were still significant in the jungle-based group but not in the urban group. Despite continuing ayahuasca use, a time-dependent worsening was only observed in one subscale (Family/Social relationships) in Study 2. Overall, the ritual use of ayahuasca, as assessed with the ASI in currently active users, does not appear to be associated with the deleterious psychosocial effects typically caused by other drugs of abuse.

Fábregas, J. M., González, D., Fondevila, S., Cutchet, M., Fernández, X., Barbosa, P. C., Riba, J., … Bouso J. C. (2010). Assessment of addiction severity among ritual users of ayahuasca. Drug and Alcohol Dependence,  111(3), 257–261. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2010.03.024
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22 May - Delivering Effective Psychedelic Clinical Trials

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